“WITHOUT FAITH IT IS IMPOSSIBLE TO PLEASE HIM, FOR HE WHO COMES TO GOD MUST BELIEVE THAT HE IS” (HEBREWS 11:6).

Nothing you do can please God apart from faith.

Throughout history, people have tried everything imaginable to gain favor with God. Most turn to religion, but religion apart from Christ is merely a satanic counterfeit of the truth.

Many trust in their own good works, not realizing that even their best efforts are offensive to God (Isa. 64:6; Phil. 3:8). And the more we try to justify ourselves, the more we offend God, because “by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight” (Rom. 3:20).

Some trust in their family heritage or nationality. The Jewish people thought they were pleasing to God simply because they were descendants of Abraham. But John the Baptist warned them, saying, “You brood of vipers, who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Therefore bring forth fruit in keeping with repentance; and do not suppose that you can say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham for our father’; for I say to you, that God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham” (Matt. 3:7-9).

Apart from faith, man cannot please God. And the first step of faith is simply believing God exists. That isn’t enough to save a person—even the demons have that level of faith (James 2:19)—but it’s a start, and by God’s grace can blossom into full saving faith.

God has given ample evidence of His existence. Romans 1:20 says, “Since the creation of the world [God’s] invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made.” David said, “The heavens are telling of the glory of God; and their expanse is declaring the work of His hands” (Ps. 19:1).

Creation itself proclaims the existence, power, and glory of God, yet most people “suppress the truth in unrighteousness” (Rom. 1:18) by rejecting the Creator and denying their accountability to Him. Rather than bowing to the true God, they pay homage to “Mother Nature” or evolution. How foolish!

Suggestions for Prayer

  • Praise God for the beauty of His creation.
  • Worship Him as the giver of every good gift (James 1:17).

For Further Study

  • Read Romans 1:18-32. Is there a connection between denying God, practicing idolatry, and committing gross immoralities? Explain.

From Drawing Near by John MacArthur Copyright © 1993. Used by permission of Crossway Books, a division of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, IL 60187, http://www.crossway.com.

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“BY [FAITH] THE MEN OF OLD GAINED APPROVAL” (HEB. 11:2).

God makes His approval known to those who trust in Him.

The book Catch-22 tells of a squadron of World War II fliers stationed on the fictitious island of Pianos in the Mediterranean. Before a flier could transfer off the island, he had to complete 25 extremely dangerous missions over southern Europe.

One flier, Yosarian, was especially anxious to leave. After completing his twenty-fifth mission, his commanding officer began raising the number of qualifying missions. Insanity became the only justification for a transfer. But the commander decided that whomever feigned insanity to obtain a transfer simply proved his sanity by that sane act!

Realizing it was all a cruel game with no way out, Yosarian devised a plan to build a raft and float to Sweden. Even though there was a whole continent between him and Sweden and the ocean currents would take him in the opposite direction, he couldn’t be dissuaded. He took a leap into the absurd with a hopeless and impossible plan to escape a hopeless and impossible situation.

In their relentless quest for meaning in life, many people become spiritual Yosarians. Rejecting God, who is the only sure and rational answer to life, they jump headlong into alcohol, drugs, witchcraft, astrology, reincarnation, or countless other absurdities.

Many acknowledge God, but try to gain His approval through self-righteous deeds apart from true faith. In either case the results are the same: no faith, no salvation, no hope, no peace, and no assurance.

But those who take God at His word and approach Him in true faith receive His approval and enjoy His blessings. Theirs isn’t a blind leap into the absurd, but a living hope in the God who made man and who alone can fulfill man’s deepest longings. They know the joy and satisfaction of a life spent in service to Christ, and the peace and assurance that all is well—both now and for eternity.

Suggestions for Prayer

  • Pray for those you know who have rejected God or are trying to gain His approval on their own. Explain to them the meaning and purpose Christ alone can bring to their lives.

For Further Study

  • According to 2 Timothy 2:24-26, what is the spiritual state of those who oppose the gospel, and how are we to approach them?

From Drawing Near by John MacArthur Copyright © 1993. Used by permission of Crossway Books, a division of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, IL 60187, http://www.crossway.com.

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“ALL SCRIPTURE IS INSPIRED BY GOD AND PROFITABLE FOR TEACHING, FOR REPROOF, FOR CORRECTION, FOR TRAINING IN RIGHTEOUSNESS” (2 TIM. 3:16).

Scripture is a manual of divine truth.

This month we’ve considered many benefits of Scripture. Second Timothy 3:16 lists four more that will be the focus of our studies as we draw this month to a close: teaching truth, reproving sin and error, correcting behavior, and training in righteousness. We’ve touched on each of those to some extent in our past studies, but they warrant additional discussion from this verse, which is Scripture’s most concise statement on its own power and purpose.

First, the Bible is profitable for teaching. The Greek word translated “teaching” refers more to content than to the process of teaching. Scripture is God’s manual of divine truth for patterning your thoughts and actions.

As a believer, you have the capacity to understand and respond to Scripture. That’s because the Holy Spirit indwells you and imparts spiritual discernment, wisdom, and understanding (1 John 2:27). You have “the mind of Christ” (1 Cor. 2:16).

But having the ability to understand spiritual truth doesn’t guarantee you’ll exercise that ability. God said to the Israelites through the prophet Hosea, “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge” (4:6). His truth was available to them, but they ignored it and lived in disobedience.

I’ve heard many people lament that they could have avoided much grief if only they had known the Bible more thoroughly—if only they had taken the time to learn what God expected of them in a particular situation. Perhaps you’ve felt that way. The best way to avoid making that mistake in the future is to faithfully, prayerfully, patiently, and thoroughly saturate your mind with biblical truth, then discipline yourself to live according to its principles. Now that’s the challenge of a lifetime, but it’s the only way to profit from biblical teaching and avoid unnecessary heartaches.

I pray you will be encouraged today as you study God’s Word and diligently apply it to your life.

Suggestions for Prayer

  • Ask God to use the circumstances you face today to draw you closer to Him and motivate you to dig deeper into His Word.

For Further Study

  • Read Exodus 24:1-8. What was the Israelites’ response to God’s Word? What is yours?

From Drawing Near by John MacArthur Copyright © 1993. Used by permission of Crossway Books, a division of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, IL 60187, http://www.crossway.com.

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“The commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes” (Ps. 19:8).

Obedience to the Word is the hallmark of a true believer.

It isn’t popular these days to speak of God’s Word as a book of commandments. Commands imply law and we’re accustomed to grace. But the fact is, both the Old and New Testaments contain many commandments that all God’s people are to obey.

The apostle John said, “By this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments. The one who says, ‘I have come to know Him,’ and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him; but whoever keeps His word, in him the love of God has truly been perfected” (1 John 2:3-5). John equated the commandments of God with the Word of God.

Jesus Himself said, “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments” (John 14:15) and “He who has My commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves Me; and he who loves Me shall be loved by My Father” (v. 21). If you truly love Christ, your life will be characterized by a pattern of obedience to His Word.

Every commandment of God is “pure”, the psalmist said (Ps. 19:8). Its effect is “enlightening the eyes.” God’s Word brings spiritual truth into clear focus. Not every passage of Scripture is easy to understand, but taken as a whole, the message of the Bible is clear to the regenerate mind.

But as clear as the Bible is to believers, unredeemed people can’t understand it. To them it’s foolishness because their minds are unenlightened (1 Cor. 2:14). In their spiritual blindness they choose humanistic philosophical speculations over God’s Word. But as a believer, you are continually being enlightened by the truths of God’s Word as the Holy Spirit enables you to understand and apply them to your life.

Your ability to understand the Word is a priceless gift. Take advantage of it daily by expanding your Bible knowledge and increasing your obedience.

Suggestions for Prayer

  • Thank the Lord for opening your mind to the truths of His Word.
  • Commit yourself to discovering at least one additional truth from Scripture each day.

For Further Study

  • Read 1 Corinthians 2:14-16. What comparison did Paul make between the natural (unregenerate) man and the spiritual (regenerate) man?

From Drawing Near by John MacArthur Copyright © 1993. Used by permission of Crossway Books, a division of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, IL 60187, http://www.crossway.com.

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“ALL SCRIPTURE IS INSPIRED BY GOD AND PROFITABLE FOR TEACHING, FOR REPROOF, FOR CORRECTION, FOR TRAINING IN RIGHTEOUSNESS; THAT THE MAN OF GOD MAY BE ADEQUATE, EQUIPPED FOR EVERY GOOD WORK” (2 TIM. 3:16-17).

God’s Word is inspired.

Second Timothy 3:16 speaks of the inspiration of Scripture. “Inspired” is the translation of a Greek word that literally means “God-breathed.” Every word of Scripture is from the mouth of God.

Theologians speak of inspiration as the mysterious process by which God worked through the authors of Scripture to produce inerrant and divinely authoritative writings. Inspiration is a mystery because Scripture doesn’t explain specifically how it occurred. The only glimpse we have is this from 2 Peter: “Know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God” (vv. 20-21).

“Interpretation” speaks of origin. Scripture didn’t originate on the human level, but with the Holy Spirit, who moved upon the authors to write it (v. 21). “Moved” is the translation of a nautical term that describes the effects of wind upon a ship as it blows against its sails and moves it through the water. Similarly, the Spirit moved on the biblical writers to produce the Word of God in the language of men.

The human authors of Scripture knew they were writing God’s Word, and did so with confidence and authority. Often they cited or alluded to one another as authoritative agents of divine revelation (e.g., 2 Pet. 3:15-17).

On a personal level, inspiration guarantees that what Scripture says, God says. It’s His counsel to you, so you can study and obey it with full assurance that it is true and will never lead you astray.

Suggestions for Prayer

  • Praise the Lord for His inspired Word.
  • Reaffirm your commitment to live according to its principles today.

For Further Study

  • Often the New Testament affirms the inspiration of the Old Testament by attributing Old Testament quotations to God Himself. For example, compare these Old Testament passages with their New Testament counterparts: Genesis 2:24 with Matthew 19:4-5; Psalm 2:1 with Acts 4:24-25; Isaiah 55:3 with Acts 13:34; Psalm 16:10 with Acts 13:35; Psalm 95:7 with Hebrews 3:7.
  • How might you respond to someone who says that the Bible is merely the words of devout religious men?

From Drawing Near by John MacArthur Copyright © 1993. Used by permission of Crossway Books, a division of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, IL 60187, http://www.crossway.com.

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“WITH ALL PRAYER AND PETITION PRAY AT ALL TIMES IN THE SPIRIT, AND WITH THIS IN VIEW, BE ON THE ALERT WITH ALL PERSEVERANCE AND PETITION FOR ALL THE SAINTS” (EPH. 6:18).

God wants you to look beyond your own problems and pray for the needs of others.

The great preacher D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones wrote, “Before the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War, in Barcelona, Madrid and other places, there were psychological clinics with large numbers of neurotics undergoing drug treatments and others attending regularly for psychoanalysis and such like. They had their personal problems, their worries, their anxieties, their temptations, having to go back week after week, month after month, to the clinics in order to be kept going.

“Then came the Civil War; and one of the first and most striking effects of that War was that it virtually emptied the psychological and psychiatric clinics. These neurotic people were suddenly cured by a greater anxiety, the anxiety about their whole position, whether their homes would still be there, whether their husbands would still be alive, whether their children would be killed.

“Their greater anxieties got rid of the lesser ones. In having to give attention to the bigger problem they forgot their own personal and somewhat petty problems” (The Christian Soldier: An Exposition of Ephesians 6:10 to 20 [Grand Rapids: Baker, 1978], p. 357).

That’s a negative illustration of a positive principle: your own problems pale as you pray in the Spirit on behalf of others. Praying “in the Spirit” (Eph. 6:18) is praying in concert with the Holy Spirit—in harmony with His Person and will. It’s synonymous with praying according to God’s will (1 John 5:14).

As the Holy Spirit intercedes for you (Rom. 8:26-27), you are to intercede for others. That’s not always easy in our contemporary religious environment where self- centeredness is praised rather than shunned, and more and more professing Christians are embracing the health, wealth, and prosperity heresy. But God’s mandate is for us to love one another, pray for one another, and look out for one another’s interests (Phil. 2:3-4). Let that mandate govern all your relationships.

Suggestions for Prayer

  • Make a list of people you want to intercede for.
  • Spend time praying for each person, asking God to show you specific ways to minister to his or her needs.

For Further Study

  • Read Philippians 2:1-11.
  • What should be your attitude toward other believers?
  • How did Christ set an example of proper attitudes?

From Drawing Near by John MacArthur Copyright © 1993. Used by permission of Crossway Books, a division of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, IL 60187, http://www.crossway.com.

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“TAKE . . . THE SWORD OF THE SPIRIT, WHICH IS THE WORD OF GOD” (EPH. 6:17).

God’s Word is your primary offensive spiritual weapon.

All the armor Paul lists in Ephesians 6 is defensive, with one exception: the sword of the Spirit. That’s your offensive weapon for defeating Satan.

We’ve seen that Roman soldiers carried two swords: the large broadsword and the small dagger. The Greek word translated “sword” in verse 17 refers to the dagger, which was anywhere from six to eighteen inches in length and was carried in a sheath or scabbard at the soldier’s side.

The dagger was a common weapon. The Roman soldiers who arrested Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane were each armed with one (Matt. 26:47). Peter used one to cut off the ear of the high priest’s servant (Matt. 26:51). A dagger was used to kill James, the brother of John (Acts. 12:2). Hebrews 11:37 tells us that such a weapon was used against the heroes of the faith.

“The sword of the Spirit” isn’t a direct reference to the Holy Spirit as such. The implications is that since our enemy is spiritual, our weapons also must be spiritual (2 Cor. 10:4). Our sword is spiritual because it is the Word given by the Holy Spirit. He inspired its writing and through it convicts and redeems sinners (John 16:8; Heb. 4:12-13). The Word abides in you and transforms you. It supplies everything you need for a godly, victorious life. It builds you up and produces holiness (Acts 20:32). And it equips you for good works by teaching, reproving, correcting, and training you in righteousness (2 Tim. 3:16).

The Bible is a powerful and effective weapon. The question is, Do you know how to use it? Do you diligently study it and apply its principles to your life? Do you have a storehouse of biblical truth to draw from in the heat of battle?

The Roman dagger was a precision weapon aimed at a specific spot to produce a specific result. Similarly, the sword of the Spirit is most effective when you apply specific biblical principles to specific situations in your life. Do you do that?

Suggestions for Prayer

  • Ask God to increase your desire to know His Word.
  • Ask for wisdom in applying what you already know to the decisions and situations you’ll face today.

For Further Study

  • Read 1 Peter 1:22—2:3. How are believers to approach the Word?

From Drawing Near by John MacArthur Copyright © 1993. Used by permission of Crossway Books, a division of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, IL 60187, http://www.crossway.com.

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